Live Through This

Drive On, Driver

I am a smart person. Why couldn’t I learn how to do this one thing that stupid people do all the time?!

Illustration by Ruby A.

When I turned 16, it was time to get my learner’s permit, the thing that lets you drive in a car during daylight hours, accompanied by an adult with a driver’s license. In the state of New Jersey, where I live, to get your permit you have to pass a driver’s education class and a written test, and practice driving for six hours with an instructor from a driving school. I had already passed my driver’s ed class and my written test (which I barely studied for). All I had left was my two days of driving lessons, three hours each, with an instructor.

I was one step closer to a full-on driver’s license! Finally, I would be able to drive anywhere I wanted to! On my own! I was completely confident that driving would be no problem for me. Driver’s ed was the easiest class I had ever taken, and I figured driving would be easy too for that reason. I hopped into the seat for my first lesson with my instructor totally ready to ace everything: turning, parking, reversing, you name it!

That didn’t happen.

What happened was that I realized how much I did not know about driving. First of all, I thought that you used two feet to drive, one for the gas and one for the brake. Also, I kept getting my left and right mixed up. I think at one point I drove on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic? I can’t remember. I do remember my instructor saying (in a long, monotonous drawl) something along the lines of “You need to really…pay attention to everything.” To everything?! I thought I was! Also, wasn’t that just the equivalent of saying, “Hazel, you’re really bad at this.”

“Pay attention to everything” is not a useful piece of criticism, it’s just common sense. Was he implying that I didn’t possess common sense when it came to driving? Yes, he was. My confidence crumbled.

I did get my learner’s permit, because I did everything needed to get it (your hours with the teacher aren’t a test, it’s just practice), but I didn’t end up getting my license until I was 18, a year after I was technically allowed to. I didn’t get my license at 17 because I was scared to drive. I was scared to practice at all, even on quiet streets, with a parent in the car. It wasn’t that I was afraid of people killing me (though I used that excuse a number of times to explain why it was taking me forever to learn); it was just that I was afraid of failing.

Why keep trying at something you know you’re really bad at? That was my logic when it came to driving. I was also embarrassed that it was taking me so long, especially when everyone in my entire grade could drive. Friends and relatives were always nagging me about driving. I kept making up excuses, like “I don’t really need to drive anywhere that often,” or “I’m going to college in the city, so I won’t need to know how to drive,” or just “A car is a death trap, did you know that?!”

At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my parents put their feet down and told me I needed to learn to drive. At first I would drive a bit with them, but then I would do something wrong, and even the tiniest bit of perfectly acceptable criticism, like pointing out a crooked parking job, would drive me off the edge. If I flubbed any tiny thing, I didn’t want to drive at all anymore. I told me parents, “If you want me to learn to drive, you literally have to force me.” Then they would try to force me and I’d get really stressed out and make more excuses. I was like a child!

People kept telling me that driving was so easy, and that I would get the hang of it in no time. This didn’t help; it made me more stressed out! I like to be challenged, but when something so simple is a challenge, it doesn’t really induce confidence. It was like if someone was teaching you how to braid hair and for some reason you couldn’t get it. Wouldn’t you feel stupid? Well, that’s how I felt. I felt like someone was teaching me to braid hair and I couldn’t get it!

My dad ignored my baby-ness and started taking me out more and more to force me to drive. Slowly, and crankily, I learned. It was not easy for me. In fact, it was the most frustrating experience of my life, because simple driving actions that came naturally to my friends and my parents were weirdly difficult for me, and I wasn’t sure why. I am a smart person. Why couldn’t I learn how to do this stupid thing that the stupidest people I knew could do? Was I dumb?! Not learning how to drive became about more than just not physically being able to do this thing correctly, it became a symbol for my overall stupidity. I got really insecure about it, and then my insecurity embarrassed me. Trying to drive a car felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, day after day. Giving up seemed like the only option.

One afternoon my dad was trying to teach me how to reverse out of a parking space. He told me several times how to reverse; he even drew a diagram for me. I could not do it. I turned the steering wheel the wrong way every single time. We must have spent five hours in the parking lot. Eventually I just started sobbing and wailing, “WHY CAN’T I DO THISSS I’M SO STUPIDDD.” Then my father laughed at me…and I laughed too. He was laughing because he knew that eventually backing out of a parking space would be easy for me. And he was right! Now, it is really easy. And so is driving down a street, merging onto a highway, and being aware of other cars and signage at all times with ease.

My turning point was the moment I finally got the hang of driving in reverse. Suddenly, I felt better about my abilities to learn things—all kinds of things! Driving was no longer this square-peg-round-hole exercise in futility; it became a beautiful story of my being able to learn things, even when they take a long time. It was like, “Oh, wait, I definitely just did this thing that I couldn’t do right for the past few weeks!” How could I call myself a lost cause when it came to driving when I just aced driving in reverse? This happened every time I (finally!) did something right behind the wheel, whether it was slowing down at a red light without screeching the car to a halt, or remembering to turn my headlights on at night, or merging without someone’s honking at me for crossing over prematurely. Practice really did make perfect. I just had to drive for a really long-ass time to get things right, and when I did, I stopped feeling like an idiot and more like a very normal person who just needed a little bit more time on the road than the usual student driver. The only thing I’m still a little shaky with is parallel parking, but I passed it in my driving test. Did you hear that, readers?! I passed my driving test on May 1, 2012. And my instructor complimented my driving! I have a driver’s license!

Seriously: I really thought I could never learn to drive. It was just this thing that I couldn’t learn, for some strange reason. But that “strange reason” was really my fear of failing. When I wasn’t immediately great at it, my confidence faltered, and I wanted to give up like a baby. Tackling my fear of failure when it came to driving helped me realize that I can’t be such a princess and just give up so on something that isn’t immediately working for me—even if it’s something that comes easily to literally everyone else in the world. Next time I’m confronted with something that’s harder than I thought it would be, or want it to be, I won’t try to avoid it. I know I have to be patient with myself, and keep practicing, Even if that means practicing my still-currently-shitty parallel parking 800 more times before I get it right. ♦


  • j-bird August 21st, 2012 7:08 PM

    this article resonated with me in a BIG way. eventually I learned how to drive and got my license at age 21 (5 years after I got my learner’s permit!), but it was a long, slow, painful process, which involved me driving my dad’s car over a sharp curb and totally killing the tire and rims, and backing over a trashcan in my mom’s SUV. The SUV was unharmed, the trashcan was not. I finally learned, and I have a car, but I still prefer to walk.

  • julietpetal August 21st, 2012 7:10 PM

    I just want you to know that not everyone else found it easy to learn to drive, I had the exact same issues, especially with reversing and left vs right! Countless times I went to reverse out of a carpark and went the wrong way, ending up with my dad chanting “turn the wheel the way you want to go!” every time I tried. But turning the wheel the way you want to go seemed so wrong – if you’re going in the opposite direction (backwards), surely you should turn the wheel the opposite way? Turn out, not so much.
    I have now had my license for 8 years and still have to check my hands for a “L” shape to work out which way to go when someone says to turn left.

  • Amber306 August 21st, 2012 7:13 PM

    I’m in the exact same predicament. 16 came and went, and I still can’t drive, but I’m probably not going to learn. I have a parent that actually won’t make me and I get severe anxiety (sweats, tense muscles, crying at almost every little thing I do wrong). I’m glad your driving though.

    • georgie fruit August 21st, 2012 9:59 PM

      I FEEL YOU! I’m 22, with no license and no intention of ever getting one. I failed the written test TWICE and it was downhill from there. I leveled a no parking sign in my high school parking lot and a few years later ran my friend’s mom’s car into the curb and popped the tire. I’ve had panic attacks before, during, and after driving and the prospect of being behind the wheel is truly terrifying. god bless my bicycle.

  • TheNarcissisticGinger August 21st, 2012 7:16 PM

    I literally failed my driver’s test today and have felt awful and stupid all day. This article could not have come at a better time. Thanks, Rookie staff!

    • NotReallyChristian August 22nd, 2012 6:40 AM

      The first time I failed my test I watched Clueless and it made me feel a lot better, I recommend that. The second time I just ate a ton of flying saucers … and the third time I passed! :)

  • ravenflamingo August 21st, 2012 7:18 PM

    Driving is really stressful at first, but I think it’s fun. I just got my permit!

  • stefx August 21st, 2012 7:20 PM

    You literally read my mind.
    I’m 17, and having this exact problem! Thanks so much for this article, Hazel. :)

  • Adrienne August 21st, 2012 7:24 PM

    My driving experience sounds a lot like yours!! Driving did not come to me naturally at all… it was so frustrating! Every time I did something wrong, I’d freak out and almost shout at my parents and they’d shout back… yeah it was interesting. It really does take a whole lot of practice and experience. My permit almost actually expired because I needed a whole year of practice.

    The driving test itself was so scary. Oh man I was so nervous and sweating like crazy but it was fine in the end. :)

    I actually got my driver’s license a couple months ago at 16 years old! Woo! :D I feel so… grown up.

  • Maryse89 August 21st, 2012 7:27 PM

    Oh my gosh, I feel this SO HARD. It took me two years to pass my drivers’ test because I failed…not once, not twice, but SIX times.

    I finally got my license and a new car weeks before high school graduation…then, on my way to graduation, I got in a huge wreck and totalled my car. Needless to say, the following summer I was terrified to get behind a wheel and it took a lot of very tentative steps before I finally was comfortable driving again. Little things like merging onto a high way sent me into a panic. 5 yrs later, ironically, I live in a city where I don’t have a car and I actually miss driving so much!

  • Gulddina August 21st, 2012 7:32 PM

    This could not be timed more perfectly. I have my last lesson tomorrow before the actual test and this is exactly what i have been stuggling with. Not bad driving but my fear of failing and disappoting everbody.

  • rayfashionfreak August 21st, 2012 7:33 PM

    This is such a great article, Well done on passing your test Hazel! I’m scared of driving too (even though I’m too young to at the moment) because I’m scared I’ll crash and hurt somebody, which is a definite possibility with my clumsiness. Me and my brothers went for a driving lesson a few weeks ago and my brothers are much better at it than I am and they’re quite a bit younger, so first of all that sucked! Then the instructor basically said the same things to me as they did to you too so that really blasted my confidence, which was pretty low to start with and now I’m more scared than ever! Reading this though, has calmed me, as you have managed to get there in the end and hopefully I will too!

  • plainjane August 21st, 2012 7:33 PM

    i have this same problem! i thought driving would be a breeze but i really just cannot get the hang of it. this is really great to read :)

  • Fortune_Goddess August 21st, 2012 7:43 PM

    That’s honestly really inspiring, Hazel. Thanks for writing this. I can’t wait ’till I get my drivers license! *nervous but there’s 3 more years*

  • Reoka August 21st, 2012 7:46 PM

    Thanks so much for that entry!
    I feel even worse about driving because a permit is something really expensive over here in Germany.It usually costs up to 3000€ and in case you fail the practical or theoretical test, you can only retake it once or you’ll have to start all over again and pay another ton of cash.
    I’ve finished all my theoretical lessons last autumn, but I just couldn’t get the hang of driving, so I gave up.
    Even on my 12th driving lesson, I was still unable to steer the wheel fast enough and therefore, my teacher would only let me operate the steering wheel, not the gas pedal.Whenever I tried operating both, I would get so stressed out about controlling the damn car that I would even mix up left and right.
    I didn’t even get to drive on a proper road, it was always on a plain field because I would have been a danger to the traffic according to my teacher.
    I didn’t get along with him very well, he was always criticizing me and telling me the rules over and over again, altough I knew theoretically what I had to do, I just had to put it into practice.
    He was also kind of a macho and constantly mocking women, sometimes I was close to jump out of the car in the middle of nowhere and just walk home instead.
    After that experience, I didn’t want to get a new teacher because I was way too frustrated.

    • julalondon August 22nd, 2012 4:53 PM

      God, WHY does it have to be so unbelievably expensive over here in Germany? My driver’s licence cost me so so much i don’t even want to think about it.

      About the teacher thing: Ask one of your classmates/friends/whatever if they know a good one. I had a woman and it made me so much more comfortable. I recommended her to all of my friends and they all went to get their lessons there… There is no way feeling secure and learning all that stuff with someone sitting next to you yelling at you or critisizing you..

      • eleni August 23rd, 2012 10:16 AM

        It also took me two tests to do the non-theory part in Germany. Before the first time, I also had that kind of scumbag driving instructor – always criticizing instead of helping, chauvinistic… whatever. I changed to another one and voilà – it wasn’t easy but it worked. Still, I couldn’t drive at all when I passed the test. It’s all about experience on the street, so don’t avoid driving afterwards but start doing so regularly. I’ve been driving for 6 years now, I have my own car that I bought from my own money and I can say that I’m a pretty good driver and I didn’t have a single accident, although I’m driving almost every day, and also long distances. I’m actually trying right now to get a motorcycle license and it’s the same all over again – I’m scared of failing but with all the experience, I’m optimistic. Just get a new teacher. You know, you can demand him to be nice, you’re the one paying the money! Good luck to you!

  • lylsoy August 21st, 2012 7:56 PM

    Aww Hazel, that just gave me confidence! I grew up in a family of non-drivers… and cars totally scare me. I got used to sitting in a car, but it all makes me feel really weird. I’m more a public transport person..

  • larvaa_ August 21st, 2012 8:02 PM

    Oh my goshhh that’s so crazy cause I live in new jersey and just finshed my sophmore year where I had to take a drivers ed class! It was pure torture for that whole semester, the class was so boring honestly the hardest thing for me was paying attention. Unfortunetly I didn’t pass my written test (so CLOSE!) But I totally regret not studying hard enough as I should’ve :/ guess ill have to wait a couple of weeks after my 16th bday \m/

  • bethleeroth August 21st, 2012 8:07 PM

    Are you a Virgo?

    • julietpetal August 22nd, 2012 1:38 AM

      I am totally interested in the answer to this question as I am a Virgo and had trouble learning to drive (as written above)! Maybe it is a Virgo thing.

      • Hazel August 22nd, 2012 1:49 AM

        I am a very stubborn Taurus :)

  • thebrownette August 21st, 2012 8:15 PM

    After my first three hours (i live in nj too), I cried myself to sleep because I thought I would hate driving my entire life and would have to say goodbye to my road trip fantasies! Lo and behold I did fine and i’m 4 months away from my provisional license :)

  • fairy_grrrl August 21st, 2012 8:28 PM

    I can relate to this so much–I’m currently studying for my learner’s permit and I really want to get it on time but I’m really afraid of taking the test (and I’m bad at keeping up with the work, since everyone takes it online and they don’t offer it at my school.) I don’t think I’ll be very good at driving because the whole thing freaks me out quite a bit and I’ve never been good at high-pressure situations but I know that my parents won’t let me get away with not getting my license on time. Everyone at my school seems to drive but I just feel so afraid of it.

  • enwarhola August 21st, 2012 8:36 PM

    Thank you so much for this. This really was me, in a nutshell. I am eighteen and just now comfortable with driving, and it feels so great. Even if it did take a bit longer than most.

  • Juniper August 21st, 2012 8:38 PM

    This is me!!
    I still haven’t gotten my license yet….

  • PZ August 21st, 2012 8:57 PM

    Wow, this is exactly where I’m at right now. I was supposed to learn to drive this summer before college, and I ended up taking two lessons and just stopping. I didn’t even do badly! I just get really anxious when I do something wrong and feel like it’s not worth it. And then I get home and get a hankering for a patty melt and kick myself for not trying harder, haha. I wish I could wake up one day and just have the reflexes and know everything, but it doesn’t work like that. Next summer!

  • Kaleidoscopeeyes August 21st, 2012 9:18 PM

    This is just perfect because it’s applicable to everything. I can use this for math and pe, because I’m definitely afraid of failure, and my insecurities do embarrass me. So…..thanks.

  • Ariella95 August 21st, 2012 9:19 PM

    I thought you drove with two feet too! I barely passed tthe in-car part of driver’s ed and now I’ve had my learner’s permit for a year and a half. This article gave me hope, though.

  • lizzette August 21st, 2012 9:34 PM

    omg i still dont know how to drive but this really does give me hope! and i never realized i was making up excuses my reasoning was always im such a bad driver im gonna end up hurting someone and my sister said she wouldnt drive me anywhere unless i paid for driving school but since i work and am going to college everyday soon im scared i missed my oppurtunity of having all the time in the world to actually practice :S. but its true that i dont want to fail at something that everyone says is so easily especially infron of someone who’s teaching me to drive. but o well i needa get on that road and practice practice practice!

  • Gabby August 21st, 2012 10:22 PM

    when i was learning how to parallel park with my dad, the steering wheel GOT STUCK. my dad kept insisting i keep turning and i DID and he got so frustrated and i was like “IT’S STUCK” and he didn’t believe me and i started to cry and we switched seats and then he was like “oh the wheel is stuck.”


  • MaggietheCat August 21st, 2012 10:35 PM

    I’m 25 and I don’t have a license, and I’ve never driven a car. People can’t believe it when I tell them.

    I live in San Francisco, so being car-less is really the way to go, but I guess I’ll have to learn eventually. It would be nice not to have to schlepp my groceries home a mile, but it beats taking groceries on the bus.

    I definitely identify with the “BUT EVEN STUPID PEOPLE CAN DO THIS!” idea.

  • KatieKween August 21st, 2012 10:39 PM

    THANK YOU for writing this!
    I get all panicky when driving- the driver’s ed videos make it seem like there’s a hazard around every corner. And then everyone else is so confused when driving seems slightly frightening.
    Anyways, your article was super reassuring. Good luck with the parallel parking! :)

  • Kaede August 21st, 2012 10:44 PM

    I loved this article! I got my permit at 17, years after my friends and classmates got theirs, and then I didn’t get my license until 2 weeks ago! My problem (other than that I was being lazy) was that I had to learn on a manual transmission, which makes it so much harder! Learning was scary, but now I feel really accomplished :)

  • Kathryn August 21st, 2012 10:45 PM

    this is basically me. I have my license, though. On my test I did the worst parallel parking ever ( basically the worst I’d ever done), but I still somehow managed to pass. I still haven’t parallel parked since…

  • Maddy August 21st, 2012 11:13 PM

    omg. Rookie. OMG. I’m gonna join the crowds and say “this is so relevant right now” because I got my permit today. I live in MA and we can get permits on our 16th birthday with a 25 question computer test. I was/am scared to drive and take on all that power and responsibility (not to mention cost for my family of classes) so I stalled for 2 mo, 30 days after my birthday and got my permit today! Like 98% of my friends took the classes first and then the test, but I just read the manual, cover to cover, and took the test.
    I’m smart and everything, but I passed with the minimum number of questions right. It was so stressful because I was unsure about the last question and guessed. I think I got a really hard test! There were trick questions, and the final question was “What is the length of license suspension for a Junior Operator’s second Passenger Restriction offense?”

    Really, RMV, really?! The answer was 180 days but it was a hail mary guess. It felt good to pass, but I think I’m going to beat myself up over almost not. Just wait till I get behind the wheel. :) Anyways, thanks Hazel.

  • BrittanySplitz August 21st, 2012 11:45 PM

    Thank you for this!!

    I’m 20 and still can’t drive (I don’t even have my permit), and have to either use public transportation or beg people for rides.

    I feel the exact same way as what you described – so many people drive, so it shouldn’t be as difficult for me as it is!
    It’s nice to know other people have felt the same ^_^

  • kimmi_kimz August 21st, 2012 11:49 PM

    i love this article so much! i have felt so behind as of late since i just got my permit months after i turned 16! as silly as it sounds, this has been such an insecurity of mine. thank you sooo much for sharing! :)

  • hillary August 22nd, 2012 12:09 AM

    this is EXACTLY how i feel about maths…except that i haven’t quite gotten to the ‘being good at it’ part yet…

  • letthemeatkake August 22nd, 2012 12:10 AM

    I remember the first time I drove with the instructor. He was this scary, scraggly man who smelled like coffee and fish. Everyone else in the class said they had driven before, and I didn’t want to be the only one. So, instead of asking my dad to drive with him before I drove with the instructor, my 15-year-old self stupidly lied and said I had driven many times. It was a disaster! I turned the wrong way twice, hit a curb while parking, AND backed out the wrong direction because of the whole L-R thing! It took me a long time to get the hang of driving, and I went through many of the same frustrations. I was one of the top students in my class and I couldn’t learn how to drive?! Eventually, two years later, I took my drivers test. I failed. I automatically failed because I did not fully stop on the way out of the parking lot, meaning I failed in the first 30 seconds of the driving portion of the test (I miraculously passed the parking test with ease). On the way home, my dad yelled at me and I cried. He wanted me to drive back (a 30-minute drive), but I stopped the car and wouldn’t move until he agreed to switch places. However, for some reason, that night I became motivated. Perhaps it was the crazy perfectionist in me. A week later, I took the same test with the same guy, and passed!

  • kendraleigh August 22nd, 2012 12:15 AM

    I love love love this article. I just started driving and I’m truly AWFUL. All of my friends got it on their first try. . . my first try consisted of about 12 near death experiences in 2 hours. So thanks tons, its awesome to know I’m not the only one!

  • junebug August 22nd, 2012 12:23 AM

    THIS IS LITERALLY ME. I’m almost 18, and I’ve only had my permit for a few months and have driven…once. My parents keep thinking I’m scared, which I guess I am, a little bit, but the whole idea of driving just stresses me out, and I’ve never been particularly good at learning things that aren’t academic (I laughed at your hair braiding example–I don’t think I could braid hair until I was like, eleven or twelve.) I just don’t really have the patience/will to handle being bad at something, so I just don’t do it. My goal is to get my license by January though, so we’ll see how that goes! (Unfortunately, I’ll actually have to drive…)

  • Whatsername August 22nd, 2012 12:27 AM

    Wait, you don’t use two feet to drive? Shit.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drive because I’m so scared of the other cars. I’m 15 and I have a fear of crossing busy streets that I’m slowly getting over. I just don’t trust that there’s a functioning human being in each of those fucked up machines.

    Hopefully I can get over it by the time I start driver’s ed.

  • Kpell August 22nd, 2012 12:31 AM

    This is exactly what I went through! I didn’t get my license until I was 17 (on my second try at that! got too nervous) I’m almost 21 and I haven’t drove in years, I really hate it. Everyone says I won’t be able to survive without driving but hopefully I will make it a few more years!

  • thecadaver August 22nd, 2012 1:40 AM

    Rookie, you continue to know my soul. I’m twenty years old and this Friday my little brother is going to get his license, while I’ve not even got half enough hours to try. It’s pretty sucky, and definitely makes me feel like a failure.

    I gotta say though, given the panicky mess I’ll often get myself into on two feet, I think it’s probably for the best I’m not driving a giant metal killing machine.

  • kendallkh August 22nd, 2012 1:42 AM

    Learning to drive was one of the most hellish times of my life, omg. My mom is a little overprotective and paranoid, but she wanted to be the one to teach me, so every practice ended with me so furious that she didn’t trust my driving skills, which made me feel like I sucked. But at the same time I knew it was reasonable to be nervous when you’re sitting in the passenger seat of a car being driven by a sixteen year old. Learning to drive is so freaking emotionally tense. I’m so glad that’s over, and congratulations on your license!

  • Megann16 August 22nd, 2012 4:03 AM

    hahaha Learinng to drive is the worst ever. This is EXACTLY like me. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M NOT NATURALLY GOD AT THISSS?

    I did eventually, after being psychologically beaten to a pulp, learn to drive. It’s such a matter of time and practice and persistence. Don’t give up guys who haven’t done it yet!It is a dirty pit of ANGST but it truly only gets easier

  • Susann August 22nd, 2012 4:18 AM

    In Germany, learning to drive is a bit different than in America – we have to learn to drive a stick! It took me so long to finally get my license because I found driving so difficult.. and all my friends passed their test so easily while I failed.
    But yeah, I actually got my license a month ago and am a pretty “good driver”, haha.

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • mews August 22nd, 2012 4:57 AM

    This article is so relevant, and definitely reassuring, though at 22 and still freaking out about driving I have a way to go.

    Also you’ve been reminded that I must learn to properly braid hair- I HAVE A DEGREE, I PROMISE I’M SMART!

  • NotReallyChristian August 22nd, 2012 6:33 AM

    Oh, I understand. I failed my driving test twice before I passed – which isn’t really that bad here in the UK, but I’ve always been a straight-A student and literally COULD NOT DEAL with being less than perfect at something. I didn’t even tell anyone except my parents about the second test, so most people think I only failed once … anyway, since I passed 2 years ago I literally haven’t driven once!

  • daisyhaneisha August 22nd, 2012 6:37 AM

    YES. I got my license a month ago when I turned 20… The world made me feel like a failure for not getting it as soon as I turned 18 (Australia face here). And my poo face ex-driving instructor didn’t help my confidence at all.

    It’s good, being able to drive by yourself. But it’s a little bit not cool for me coz most of my friends are now turning 18 and all getting their license, so I never got to be the cool, older friend who could drive :(


  • mangachic August 22nd, 2012 8:58 AM

    Perfect timing as always. I always have the sense that if i don’t get things immediately I should give up, and now that I’m in a new country/school where everybody speaks the language more fluently than I do, I always feel like I should do the minimum possible, speak english whenever I can, and pity myself every time I’m bad at something since everyone else is a much better speaker. I need to get over it and just practice a lot and actually learn the language, instead of feel stupid/refuse to have anything to do with hebrew.

  • Elinnn August 22nd, 2012 9:16 AM

    I have just turned 16 and soon I’m going to start practice driving, and I’m sooo nervous. Because I get really insecure when something is difficult, and I feel like an idiot when I do something wrong, even though I know it happens to the most people. So thanks for this article!

  • chiara_ August 22nd, 2012 9:30 AM

    I can relate so much to this article, as I understand so well your fear of failing. I’m usually a kind of nerd, my grades are almost all above the media, except for Maths. No matter how much I try to study it, in the end during tests I always make foolish mistakes just like 9+4=15, because my anxiety leads me to fail… Oh, the irony.
    I know I’m not a stupid, or, at least, I hope so (this issue almost destroyed my self-confidence), but I keep making mistakes and mistakes. Lately I feel like I can’t stand that subject anymore, and I go nuts even by thinking that today I have to do my homework. I freak out each time I make a mistake… I should grow more patient, and keep going on, no matter how ashamed I feel of myself, just like you did. One day, when I will realize that hey, at the end it wasn’t a big deal, I will feel so proud of myself. I will feel just like a warrior, while now I feel like a retarded.
    Thank you for being a role model.

  • maybefox August 22nd, 2012 10:04 AM

    I so need to remember this for everything that doesn’t immediately work out! Getting my driving license was the first time I failed any kind of test, it was horrible. I even failed twice! It was a written test (here, it’s 25 question with photos running on a screen, max 5 mistakes) and I failed. When I got the same test the second time (which was ridiculously un/lucky) I freaked out and made 6 different mistakes! The practical test wasn’t a problem for me and I actually really like driving. So I’m glad I stayed with it even though it was hard. Life lesson right there, but it’s still hard to keep doing things I’m bad at, I guess I still haven’t learned properly.

  • bamfweasley27 August 22nd, 2012 11:22 AM

    I feel your pain. I just got my license and I cried five times in the two hours before my drivers test.
    This is my life, right down to the fact that I just learned how to braid three months ago because before people got fed up when I didn’t get it.

  • princessbutts August 22nd, 2012 1:47 PM

    dude i wish i had read this article when i was a teenager! i thought i was the only person i knew who just didn’t get how cars worked. i used to be terrified of driving as well: like reoccurring nightmares about riding in cars and having to take the wheel and getting into dramatic fiery accidents terrified. so i didn’t start learning until i was eighteen and didn’t get my license till i was twenty after failing *FIVE TIMES* because parallel parking is literally satan.

    but driving is one of my favorite things now so fear not, there is hope for even five time failure scaredy cats like me. just make good mix cds of music that makes you feel tough, powerful and babely to practice driving around to and be kind/patient with yourself!

  • RaineFall August 22nd, 2012 2:29 PM

    Exactly how I felt! I live in the UK and all my friends passed in like 3 months. We have to sit a theory test to and I failed that 3 times. I felt awful because I was really good at academics and was just crap at driving. My driving instructor used to say that idiots can pass their driving test, which made me feel worse. I failed my practical the first time with an impressive 4 majors and 15 minors. I eventually passed second time around last November, a year after starting.

  • eireann August 22nd, 2012 4:14 PM

    Your experience sounds exactly like mine! It’s nice when hard work pays off :)

  • megantron August 22nd, 2012 4:37 PM

    This was exactly me as well. Although I got my license when I was 17 years old, I still didn’t like driving that much because I just wasn’t a very good driver. I always felt scared of the other drivers on the road. I didn’t drive much in college either since I didn’t need a car at school, but after I started commuting to grad school, I gained a lot more confidence and became a much better driver. It can be harrowing at first, but it’s an important skill to learn so you won’t be as dependent on other people. I only wish I had realized this stuff earlier– you can’t be perfect at everything right off the bat!

  • starsinyourheart August 22nd, 2012 5:34 PM

    thankyou!! although I’m in the UK, i had a special permit to learn to drive at 16, and started learning a couple days after. it stressed me out so badly that i had to stop for a while. i passed six months ago and i am so much more confident, although i still need calming down sometimes. i love this article so much! this website is just perfect.

  • aliceee August 22nd, 2012 6:46 PM

    I’m almost eighteen and have never been behind the wheel of a car, but my parents are making me learn to drive this year. I’ll keep this in mind as I jolt around parking lots uncomfortably in a few weeks…

  • Chloe Elizabeth August 22nd, 2012 7:59 PM

    Oh Rookie. I just failed my drivers test a couple weeks ago and being a straight-A perfectionist, failing a test of any kind completely broke me. I retake tomorrow. And I am so scared. Scared I’ll mess up and get flustered. Scared I’ll do something dumb. Scared I’ll fail and everyone will think I’m stupid. Even my boyfriend, who fails everything, passed on his first try. Damn you, driving. Damn you!!! (I’m bitter about this.)

  • youngfridays August 22nd, 2012 10:52 PM

    Wow, how relatable lol
    I turned 16 a few months ago and still haven’t applied for a test yet, I keep telling myself that I will soon but I can’t get up the confidence because I’m afraid of failing :c
    I will soon though, I really will.

  • eliza dolittle August 23rd, 2012 12:26 AM

    Dood, I completely get the stress about practising. In Australia you take an exam to get your learner’s permit, and you then have to do 120 FREAKING HOURS over at least a year before you can even go for the driving test to get your p’s, which you then have for three years and then and only then do you actually have your full license. At first this horrified me, but having done my 120 hours I’m really grateful they’re making everyone practise and become certain in their driving.

  • luxy August 23rd, 2012 12:44 AM

    I got my license a week ago and THIS MAKES ME FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. So many tears went into that license, and I acted like a baby too.

  • connie. August 23rd, 2012 4:13 AM

    In California you can get your permit at 15 1/2. I’m seeing all my friends getting their permits, some even licenses. I’m not quite of age yet, and I guess I could start taking drivers ed, but based on the amount of knowledge I have on driving right now, it’s still going to be a long way to go.

  • mary6 August 23rd, 2012 9:23 AM

    A REALLY REALLY greaaaat article my dear Hazel….I knew it from the beginning that i could be identified with u, since taking my driving license was a HUGE trouble for me.. After 3 tests, i finally managed to take the all-wanted license…but still the faces of the rude, strict examiners are well-kept in my mind…I confess to u that taking my driving license was MUCH HARDER THAN GETTING INTO THE UNIVERSITY …

  • isabella-s August 23rd, 2012 11:39 AM

    It’s interesting, all this “driving is the easiest thing in the world to everyone I know except for me”, I live in/am born in one of the bigger cities in Sweden (though small compared to America) and here getting your driver’s license is a HUGE deal, you always get like 50 likes (with an average of maybe 200 friends?) on facebook everyone gets so excited. Most people fail their driving tests like 2 times. Also why were you FORCED BY EVERYONE to get your license??? So weird? Is riding the bus still something you get shamed for for doing everywhere in America, and not only in L.A.? I sound like such an elitist right now, I don’t mean to! Just curious! Also OF COURSE you’re not stupid just because your proprioception doesn’t work along with the will of your brain every time, thinking that might be the only sort of stupid thing.

    • Hazel August 23rd, 2012 6:28 PM

      No I understand! Where I live in the American suburbs, public transportation isn’t really a thing. I have to have a car to get around my town. I could take a bus into my nearby city, but if I wanted to go across town to see my friend I would need a car. So without a license to drive, I was sort of stuck :( that’s why it was so important to get one!

  • marineo August 23rd, 2012 2:37 PM

    Backing up! Oh gosh I couldn’t back up for almost 5 months after I got my permit, and I felt like such a loser. Backing up was ridiculously unnecessarily confusing for me too!

  • vanguardinspace August 23rd, 2012 8:48 PM

    You are me. 18 and still no license when I could have had it at 16. This article is really motivating though, I freaked out the first time I almost crashed the car because I couldn’t get my foot to the brake fast enough and haven’t driven since.

  • Jakeline August 24th, 2012 1:29 PM

    Omg so relevant! I’m 19 and I still haven’t passed my road test to get my drivers license. I got my learners permit a year after all my friends, and I was in drivers ed classes as a senior and not a junior like everyone else I know. I took my road test two years ago and failed miserably and have been scared of failing since then. I thought I wouldn’t really need my license because I was going to school in a city, but now that I’ve come home for the summer, I’ve realized that having it is really necessary for work, hanging out with friends and not being dependent on others for rides. I practiced driving this summer and oddly enough I felt more confident on the wheel, especially after I sort of mastered reversing. Now I’m just waiting for my road test appointment and then I’ll finally get it all over with and not have family friends act all surprised because I don’t have my license yet, or worse seeing high school kids already driving on their own.

  • Summer August 24th, 2012 7:04 PM

    I am almost 19 and still won’t drive. I didn’t get my g1 (which is the lowest driver’s license in canada) until I was almost 17 and only drove when my dad made me practice. I hated it, I was terrified, and stopped altogether through the winter. The first time I drove after the spring I crashed the car into the garage door of my house (yay) and haven’t driven since (it’s been almost a year and a half). This article gave me comfort that at least i’m not the only one who feels EXACTLY LIKE YOU DESCRIBE IN THIS ARTICLE, HAZEL. Thank you for giving me the confidence to at least TRY driving again…maybe? :)

  • Peanutpug August 25th, 2012 7:46 PM

    I learned to drive this summer and I am so proud of myself, I never thought I would be able to do it. It’s funny to think that just a couple of months ago I struggled to “steer” the car along a straight road. haha. But I am waiting now for my test to get my full license (the waiting list is 10 weeks here in Ireland) and as I am going to college in September I won’t be driving for WEEKS, so I am scared that I will have forgotten everything and have lost my confidence by the time my test comes around!

  • Cerise August 25th, 2012 11:52 PM

    This is me, I swear! I did all the normal stuff: went to driver’s ed, practiced in parking lots, etc. etc., but then I just didn’t get my license. I didn’t really care about driving, I guess. When it got to the point of me being the only person in my class who didn’t have a license, then I felt awkward about it.

    And now I’m just afraid of failure, but…I’m really tired of asking people for rides, so I’m going to just go ahead and do it. *sigh* When I admitted to the lady renewing my permit that I was 20, though, she looked at me like I had broken some sacred law or something. It was almost funny, except that everyone looks at me like that when I admit I don’t have my license. Someday soon….

  • mirry August 29th, 2012 8:18 PM

    I can very much relate to this. I didn’t get my permit until I was 17 or 18, and then kept making the same excuses as you not to drive (I was going to college in the city so I wouldn’t need to drive, I didn’t need to get around much, and driving is so dangerous anyway!). It was very hard for me and it made me feel stupid, and I felt that any mistake I made was just showing everyone around me how dumb I really was. I had to renew my permit twice, and I even failed my driver’s test twice (once because I couldn’t parallel park and once because of an anal instructor), but both times I was told that my driving skills were actually very good. Eventually, at the ripe old age of 21, I got my license, and now driving is like second nature to me. I even sort of enjoy driving now!

  • Adeline Ania November 18th, 2012 10:17 AM

    Where I live, you’re supposed to get your learner’s permit at age 15 and your license at 16. I am 18 and I didn’t get my learner’s permit until a little over a year ago. I’ve tried driving with both my step-dad and boyfriend, and on more than one occasion, it led to disaster. I eventually just gave up. Anytime I’m pestered about it, I give the same excuses that you used – that I’m afraid to drive, that I don’t need to drive because I’m moving to a big city and so on. And while I do have a genuine fear of cars and transportation in general, I think the underlying reason has more to do with a fear of failing. This article really resonated with me and made me feel less alone. I’m going to try driving again, this time with a little more self-assurance.